Philadelphia Jury Awards $980 Million in Mitsubishi Seat Belt Failure Case

In a landmark decision in October, a Philadelphia jury awarded a staggering $980 million to Francis Amagasu, a driver who suffered paralyzing injuries due to a defective seat belt in his Mitsubishi vehicle. The incident, which occurred during a 2017 collision, has brought significant attention to vehicle safety standards.

Francis Amagasu and his family received a combined $180 million in compensatory damages and an additional $800 million in punitive damages. This verdict was announced following the trial’s conclusion on October 30. The case centered around a 1992 Mitsubishi 3000GT, in which the seat belt system failed to protect Amagasu during a 45 mph rollover accident. This failure resulted in severe spinal cord injuries, leaving him with major mobility impairments.

The accident took place on November 11, 2017, in Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania. Both Francis Amagasu and his son, Katsutoshi Amagasu, were using their seat belts at the time of the crash. However, the malfunction of Francis’ seat belt led to his tragic injuries.

This verdict surpasses previous records in Philadelphia, notably exceeding a $182.7 million medical malpractice award against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. That verdict is currently under appeal for being excessively high.

Kyle Farrar of Kaster Lynch Farrar & Ball, the attorney representing the Amagasu family, stated, “The evidence presented in court clearly demonstrated the flaws in Mitsubishi’s design and their disregard for safety.” He expressed that the jury’s decision was not unexpected given the compelling evidence.

The lawsuit accused Mitsubishi of negligence in the design of both the vehicle and its seat belt system. The key issue was whether the seat belt allowed too much “slack,” failing to adequately secure the driver in the event of a rollover.

Mitsubishi defended their design, arguing that the seat belt was indeed safe and that the injuries were a result of Francis Amagasu’s reckless driving. However, the jury, after deliberating for four and a half hours on compensatory damages and only 20 minutes on punitive damages, sided with the plaintiff.

The trial, which began on October 20, was presided over by Judge Sierra Thomas Street of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Prior to the trial, the Amagasu family had reached a settlement with the car dealership also named in the lawsuit.

The case, filed as Amagasu et al. v. Mitsubishi Motors North America et al., case number 181102406, has set a new precedent in automotive safety litigation and highlights the critical importance of reliable safety features in vehicles.